We’re excited to introduce Spotlights, a new video series. In our first Spotlight, Conversocial CMO Paul Johns discusses how Social Customer Care brings humanity, comedy and even a little drama to your customer relationships.
I fly Virgin Atlantic quite a lot. I remember walking into the lounge about ten years ago, and there was a lady who worked there who took care of me. I wasn’t feeling great. Went over and above, got me a blanket, got me some headache tablets, made sure I got on the plane okay. A decade later, I was in the lounge, and she’s still there, remembers me, knows where I’m siting, knows what drink I like to have. There’s a very, very human, very personal connection there.
I ended up writing about it. I ended up taking to #Twitter, as you do, and writing a blog and really reflecting on the importance of that. For all of the values of the brand, the thing that really stood out about the brand was this person. They responded. They responded don Twitter. They were so grateful that one of their passengers had taken the time. They rewarded me. It wasn’t what I’d wanted or expected, but they’d rewarded me with lifetime Gold Membership.
I felt it was a bit unfair. I’d felt like they had done something even more over and above for me thanking them for being over and above in the first place. Look, the blog really talked a little bit about how the airline, for all of the great work that they do, the brand was really personified through this one individual.
As I like to remind our customers, what’s unique about social, the social channels or the social signals perhaps more accurately, is that they don’t own them. The customer owns them. Let’s kind of a take a step back and think on why did that happen. I think brands, and I’ve been working in this industry for over twelve years.
I think brands have offered up a wall of technology as a way to confront the customer. It’s not very warm. It’s not very emotionally charged. It is really a very efficient way to, in a very repeatable fashion, to just have the most direct, simple, cold conversations.
What social has done is it’s given customers a voice for the first time. It said, “Look, you know, you’re being listened to. Not just by the brand, but by other customers.” They kind of set the tone. They set not just the channel, but they kind of decided the fashion with which they wanted to converse. They decided how emotional it should be. They’ve injected their humor. They’ve injected their personalities.
To a large extent, I think the worst thing that brands could have done is replied in this very synthetic way. I think that if your customers determine what that tone starts to look and feel like, it is the responsibility of the brand to figure out how to reflect on that, and how to hold a mirror up to it and say, “We’re ready to have that conversation.” I think that’s where the opportunity is.
Today’s customers have a higher expectations. Of course, one of the things about the social channels is given that they’re public and amplified, you know it’s a spectator sport, certainly a contact sport. One of the things I think first is that if you were to engage with a brand over email or perhaps private chat or voice, only you and the brand knows how that conversation went.
When you’re doing it through social, of course, there’s an exponential effect to it. Every other customer has the option to see that engagement, to witness it, to reflect upon it, and decide if they want to deal with that brand as a result of it.
What tends to happen is that as an airline or a hotel chain or a retail franchise changes the tenor, changes the dialogue, and resolves an issue through social in a very positive way, of course suddenly every other customer sees that happen. Now they’re thinking, “Well, hold on a second. Why am I, why I’m on hold on a phone when I can go to Twitter and get an instant response?”
Now, if your brand isn’t immediately offering the same service that a competitor is, well then you’re dealing with the exact issue here, which is the barriers of change have come right down. Loyalty is situational. The days of having one banking customer for the rest of your life, that’s not how we’re wired today. We test brands with every interaction. Expectations have shifted, loyalties have been dropped to this notion that I will test the brand and be loyal to that brand whilst that brand continues to demonstrate value.
I think we all get that we’ve disconnected ourselves form ourselves. I lost my cellphone. I left it on a train, and I come into Grand Central Station in the morning. I had to walk all the way to the office without a phone to stare into. I was suddenly disconnected from the matrix. I was suddenly looking around me and realizing how wired in everyone else was. No one was paying attention to anyone. It was kind of quite scary.
How do you then kind of frame that in the world of customer service? Well, look. We’re detached. We’re detached from each other. We’re detached from brands, which goes back to the earlier point about loyalty, right? How do you reattach your brand to a customer?
I think you do that by first of all understanding that a brand should be somewhat porous. They should offer up not the logo on the top of the building, but the personalities, the diversity of the people that you employ. If you can create very authentic, very real connections between the people that love your business, that want to be in your business, that reflect on that with the customer, I think that’s how you reignite those very dormant relationships that have just slipped into apathy over the last three to five years, maybe even longer.
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